• Statute of Limitation Triggered by Elimination of Seniority, Not Resulting Termination
  • January 7, 2009 | Author: V. Brette Bensinger
  • Law Firm: Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP - Chicago Office
  • An airline company offered certain union employees the option of taking positions as temporary managers. As a caveat to that offer, the employer warned the employees that if they chose to remain in the temporary management position longer than the specified time period of 320 days, they would lose their union seniority. One of the employees who chose to work as a temporary manager held the position for longer than the 320 days. As a result, the employee’s union seniority was forfeited and, because of a reduction in force and his loss of union seniority, the employer terminated his employment. Two years after the loss of seniority, the employee filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employer attempted to dismiss the claim because it was filed after the 300-day time limit for filing claims with the EEOC. But the employee contended that the triggering event for the time period was his termination, not his loss of seniority. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the employee’s argument, holding that the discriminatory act alleged in the Complaint was the loss of seniority, not the termination, even though the loss of seniority led to the termination. Further, the court explained, the employee had not alleged that he was treated differently from his fellow coworkers who had lost their seniority. In other words, there was no allegation of discrimination independent of his earlier loss of seniority. The court did note that the employee did not allege a continuing violation exception, which could have potentially prevented the dismissal of his claim had the termination occurred within the limitations period. Given the pending Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would amend the possible triggers for the 180-day time period within which an individual must file a discrimination claim with the EEOC, employers should be aware that future cases might not be as employer-friendly.

    Alleyne v. American Airlines, No. 07-1386 (2d Cir., Nov. 17, 2008)